Cover Image: Joan: A Novel of Joan of Arc

Joan: A Novel of Joan of Arc

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Member Reviews

Great historical fiction novel about one of my favorite saints, Joan of Arc. 
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a complimentary copy of the book. My thoughts are my own.
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Here’s a historical fiction gem that I’ve not seen at all on Bookstagram. As a homeschool mom, one of my favorite things to do is find books related to the historical time periods we are learning about and this came across my netgalley queue serendipitously. 

Joan by Katherine J. Chen is a brilliantly written secular reimagining of the epic life of Joan of Arc. It’s the early fifteenth century and France is on the losing side of a war with England. People are starving and the king is in hiding. One teenage girl emerges to help turn the tides of the war. Joan, the novel, is a sweeping narrative from her birth in a small rural village, her childhood rocked with periods of abuse & peace, her rise to the top of the French army, and to her unfortunate & untimely death. 

In this well-researched portrayal of this remarkable young woman, Katherine J. Chen fully encapsulates Joan’s life mixed with the politics of the royal court, and France’s fight for freedom from England’s oppression. I absolutely loved diving deep into this epic & learning about this particular time in history. I highlighted so many passionately written passages that made me feel all of the things. 

If you love wonderfully written historical fiction that’ll knock your hosen off, I highly recommend adding Joan to your TBR. Thank you to the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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I was delighted to recommend this on What Should I Read Next episode 364: Great books you may have missed in 2022, featuring wonderful books that were released in 2022 and flew beneath the radar.
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An insightful look at an unlikely heroine - Joan of Arc.  Although I learned a great deal (and appreciate the author's notes as to what was fact and what was fictionalized), the flow of the book left me dragging to finish.
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As someone who has read many books on Joan of Arc, this was my least favorite. Joan was a massive disappointment. When I heard that Katherine Chen’s novel on Joan was coming out, I was excited to read it because Joan of Arc is one of my favorite medieval historical figures. She was a very strong woman. In this novel, I found nothing that she resembles Joan of Arc. Joan if Arc is very faith-driven. Yet, this novel shows that she was purely motivated by revenge. The author also ignored many historical facts in order to fit her own view of Joan of Arc. Thus, Joan is very inaccurate and was not a good portrayal of the real Joan of Arc. Thus, there are better versions of Joan out there, and this book is merely forgettable.
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This book was fantastic! I really enjoyed it and it kept me guessing throughout, which is difficult for most books to do. I felt like I connected with the characters and really enjoyed the plot!
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Wow! This book is so well researched and presented! You have to be careful with books about history that they don’t come off as textbooks and I thought she did a great job. I learned a lot that I didn’t know and will be turning to this author again.
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Hardly would this be a reflection in a dazzling stained-glass church window........

Katherine J. Chen had a far different portrayal in mind.

St. Joan of Arc conjures up images of a beautiful young maiden suited out in bright armor and seated upon a mighty steed. She was a soldier in a spiritual army hearing voices within herself. It was to a Will far greater than her own that Joan responded without question.

Chen's Joan is (in her own words) ugly, dark-eyed, and large. We visit her early on in 1422 as a young child. Joan takes to the countryside looking for adventure and challenge. She finds it in a village boy by the name of Guillaume. Joan will become known as "the rock thrower" for her deed that day. The thrust of that rock left one boy unable to return home.

Joan's relationship with her father is displayed through vicious beatings that she received from him. Her physical presence was a continuous source of anger for the man. He would take out life's disappointments on this second daughter to the point of even banishing her from his house. Her waywardness was implanted at an early age.

Chen supplies us with a multitude of characters along the way in which we get a feel for France in a constant losing battle with England. There is an almost neverending fight for the throne as well with characters reflecting both rivals and allies for Joan.

Joan by Katherine J. Chen is a fierce read. Joan becomes an imposing figure led by her own internal battles from childhood. There is nothing "saintly" here in the mix. Chen took liberties in her telling in this one. Her research of the time period and historical significance are remarkable. But Joan is molded by Chen's imagination into a force of pure womanhood and grit. And that, folks, is a thing to behold. Bravo, Chen, bravo.

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley for an homest review. My thanks to Random House and to the talented Katherine J. Chen for the opportunity.
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Joan is an absolutely beautiful novel, but it is incredibly slow moving and introspective. I really enjoyed the way Chen played with history in this fictionalized account, and would agree with the comparisons to Wolf Hall. That being said, this book will not be for everyone. I'm an avid historical fiction reader, but it took me a long time to get through this one.
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I was so excited to read this novel due to my fascination with Joan of Arc. I knew going in that this was historical fiction, however I did not anticipate how much it would focus on the fiction of Joan's life. While the novel documented the events leading up to her death, it didn't focus on the core of Joan's character - her relationship with God, and the voices she heard. While I understand that this had to be a digestible read, and religion can be a difficult subject, it was so important to Joan and it was upsetting not to see this portrayed here.
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I found this story to be compelling and I learned so much about Joan.  
Many thanks to Random House and to NetGalley for providing me with a galley in exchange for my honest opinion.
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This historical novel is very fast paced, well researched and very compelling. This is well written. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.
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The most interesting part of the story of Joan of Arc, to me, has always been the question of whether she was truly a holy woman who saw visions and received military assignments from God or whether she just THOUGHT those things happened to her.  This book takes all of that out and has the supernatural aspects of her life be pure fabrications by those around her who wanted the people to believe in her power and abilities.  Joan is just a big, strong, traumatized young woman who is gifted with a great military mind, but wants the endless war with England and French rebels to be over.  It was a new way to think about Joan's life and I enjoyed the book - it was well-written and very touching at times - but I'll admit I missed the spiritual parts of the traditional legend.
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I loved this book. It turned me from someone who is generally disinterested in Joan of Arc into an admirer... and an enormous fan of its author, Katherine J Chen. I had the honor of interviewing Katherine about "Joan' for my podcast Storytime in Paris. Here is what I said:

My guest this week is award-winning author Katherine J. Chen. Katherine’s work has been published in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Literary Hub, among others. Katherine is drawn to stories about powerful women and her latest novel, “Joan: a Novel of Joan of Arc,” is no exception. But this Joan is not the Joan you think you know. This is no meek marytr. Katherine’s Joan is strong and powerful, filled with rage, prone to hubris, and shaped by a relationship to God that many have called controversial.

From the moment I read this book, months ago, I knew I needed to speak with its creator. In our conversation, Katherine shares why she was draw to tell a story that’s been told before in a way no one’s ever told it, and so much more. Then, she treats us to a reading of “Joan: A Novel of Joan of Arc.”

Listen to the podcast on
Or anywhere you listen to podcasts
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Joan of Arc is not someone about whom I have read a lot of nonfiction or historical fiction, though I am familiar with the basic legend. This book was a very interesting interpretation of Joan's possible circumstances that led to her role as a warrior and her ultimate demise. The author explains her inspiration in the note at the end. This storyline feels absolutely plausible.
The author made Joan a real person who I could relate to. Character development of Joan, her father and the king were excellent. I could feel the tension in all of these relationships. The author omitted the typical detailed and often gory medieval battle scenes one might expect in this type of historical fiction. I did not miss them at all. This is a story about Joan and how she may have come to be the person of legend rather than a fictionalized account of war. 
Recommended for those who enjoy historical fiction, particularly from the medieval period. 
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of this novel in exchange for my honest review.
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I wanted to love this book.
Joan of Arc is one of the historical figures I have been wanting to read more of because she's one of those powerful strong women in history.
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Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of Joan: A Novel of Joan of Arc.

I should have read the premise more carefully. 

Joan of Arc is one of my favorite saints; her faith, courage and strength is the embodiment of a strong, faithful, and powerful woman ahead of her time.

In the afterword, the author explains she wrote a fictionalized portrait of Joan of Arc to fit modern times.

Personally, I think this is difficult to do; writing a novel based on a famous historical character that isn't inspired and based on the person's true life and what he or she has achieved seems to undermine their accomplishments.

Why write a modernized, fictionalized tale of a historical figure when the facts are already there?

It makes reading the book feel like a waste of time.

The author's Joan of Arc is a feisty, temperamental child who grows to be a massive size. I'm not sure if the author does this on purpose so the soldiers she commands will take her more seriously if her stature and skills resemble a man's.

Joan is a survivor, having grown a thick skin after suffering physical abuse at the hands of her father. She seeks solace with her beautiful sister, Catherine, and an uncle she adores.

These people are the ones she thinks and cares about, including a young boy who is killed in a playground battle when Joan is 10.

Joan is not religious or does she have visions. Her family and the locals talk of God like he's a bully. Their God is angry, volatile and enjoys punishing the sinful (and everyone else just for the heck of it).

Joan doesn't pray; when she does pray to God it's only because she wants something; not out of loyalty or faithfulness, but because she wants:

Revenge for the rape of her sister
Revenge for the English soldiers who ransacked her village
Revenge for her family being torn apart after the death of her sister

Joan is a French medieval version of Arya Stark; she's compiled a hit list of men in her head and recites it faithfully to give her strength and endurance as she pursues her goal of avenging her sister.

The novel is slow, especially when the narrative is focused on her childhood years. Her obsession on the young boy who died Guillaume is a repetitive sore point Joan thinks about often. Too often.

Overall, the narrative is slow, as the author shows how Joan learns to fight brushing up on her sword skills, and then she meets the Dauphin. 

Knowing how the scenes with the Dauphin are contrived made it difficult to care about the conversation between him and Joan,.

I hate politics now and the US is a 'democracy'.' It's hard to care about what happened between France and the English 500 years ago.

I understand the author wanted to write a more flawed, relatable character in her Joan, but I didn't like her Joan.

She's indifferent and haughty, like she knows she's better than everyone around her, including the men she commands. That's a very unlikable character trait, I don't care who you are.

There's no heart and faith in this novel or in Joan.

The writing is good, but wordy, almost too wordy; too descriptive, too verbose, too much, as if the author is purposely drawing out certain scenes, like when Joan watches a blacksmith work at a local fair and how she's entranced by the helmet he's crafting.

The real Joan of Arc, whether you believe in her visions or not, was a revolutionary young woman, not just because of her devotion to her faith and God, but her strength and perseverance is a testament to anyone, regardless of gender, to forge ahead, ignore the naysayers and break down barriers wherever you go.

The Joan in this book just wants revenge, and though I've got nothing against vengeance, she is a grown woman who has never escaped the hate of her father so she's never learned to like or love herself.
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I have been obsessed with Joan of Arc since I saw Leelee Sobieski bring her to life on the small screen. Being a reader I was over the moon to find out that there was a new book based on this remarkable young woman, I was absolutely here for it! 

Katherine J. Chen's rendition of Joan's tale was different than others. Especially when it comes to the relationship between here and her father, her sister, and her motivations for participating in the war. The majority of the material I have consumed about Joan's life focuses on Joan the Warrior, not so much on Joan the child, Joan the daughter, Joan the sister. While this telling talks about the Warrior Joan, the primary focus is her life, and her pre Joan of Arc history wrapping during battle time, but not diving into her trial. 

For any Joan of Arc fan, this is a , though readers with triggers should be wary. Joan lived during war time France in the early 1400's, some violence is to be expected, and based on history sexual assault in wartime is also to be expected, Additional triggers I was not expecting were abuse, animal cruelty (graphically depicted)-both in war and at home. 

While I would not recommend this book for people that do not have an interest in literature about Joan and this time period, I would recommend it to people interested, but proceed with caution if you have triggers, this one isn't for the faint of heart.

***I am a reader, a writer, and a book collector. My physical bookshelf is full of books that I picked up solely because the cover spoke to me (some have been read, others have not) and books that I read digitally, audibly, or checked out from the library/borrowed from a friend and I loved them or their cover so much that it needed a place on my shelf. Had I not been interested in/known who Joan of Arc was, I would have passed this one up (I am in the US). However if it was the UK version I would have immediately picked it up and most likely purchased it based on the synopsis, may or may not have read it until doing some research into Joan of Arc, but It would have a place on my shelf. As it is, the opinion question of if you would purchase a copy, absolutely-if I can find the UK version.
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I have always been fascinated with Joan of ARC. I am so glad to have finally found a book that has given her the story she deserved!
A young woman,that's strong,determined, and willing to help her king and country in any way! Highly recommend this book!
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I didn't know much about Joan of Arc, to be honest, so it was fun to learn more about her life through this book. It's important to note this is one author's interpretation of her life, and maybe not one everyone would agree with, but it was one I found intriguing and interesting. I found it to be slower paced than a story like Circe, which I admit for reasons unknown to me, I kind of expected this to be like. Because the story took so long to hook me, and for the relative slowness to it, I'd give it 3.5 stars. If you like historical fiction, this is a book worth exploring.
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